March 2018 News

One of the challenges facing operators of main-line steam locomotives after a major overhaul is finding a location to run them in and detect any snags before they undertake  loaded test runs and main-line duties. On 28th January PVC's 231 G 558 is seen towing a BB 67400 around Sotteville Yard, passing lines of withdrawn locomotives awaiting breaking up in Quatre Mare works. Further work appears to have taken place over the winter with the withdrawn locomotives, sorting them further by class type.  Photo Jean-Louis Poggi

Two major rail reports presented to the French Government 

Rail Infrastructure Priorities For Next 20 Years
On the 1st February the Conseil d’Orientation des Infrastructures, set up in September 2017 to advise the government on transport infrastructure priorities over the next twenty years presented its report to the Minister of Transport. The Conseil was made up of both experts and elected representatives and chaired by Phillipe Duron who had previously led the commission on the Intercite services operated as Trains d’Equilibre du Territoire.  

The Conseil's remit was against the two strategic goals of decarbonising the French transport sector by 75%, and the need to manage further investment in the context of an already large public sector debt burden. Duron also noted President Macron's desire that future infrastructure spending should focus on ‘the needs of every day travellers’ and the railway recommendations seek to improve the traditional network rather than building more new lines. Three  scenarios were presented based upon  €48, €60 and  €80 billion being available to infrastructure funding authority AFITF for all forms of surface transport. 

The key element for the railways was to improve capacity at hubs with Paris, Lyon Bordeaux and Toulouse all identified for investment. For Paris this included remodelling at Gare de Lyon, Bercy, St Lazare and Austerlitz, improvements to the Massy - Valentin LGV interconnection and an Orly Pont de Rungis TGV station. Implentation of ECTS and digitialised traffic management was also recommended to improve capacity and work towards 15 minute interval services in the major conurbations.

The report supports upgrading to POLT (Paris Orleans Limoges Toulouse), Dijon - Amberieu - Chambery  and Nantes - Bordeaux (south of Saintes). New sections of line are proposed to reduce congestion between Marseille, Nice and Toulon with a new through station at Marseille a priority, to avoid reversing at Marseille St Charles.
Apart from the 6km Roissy - Picardie connection the only new line that is supported is the Bordeaux - Toulouse LGV. Other projects such as  Bordeaux - Dax and extension of the Rhin-Rhone LGV receive no support. The  Tunnel Euralpin Lyon-Turin (Mount Cenis base tunnel) is covered by an international treaty, and outside the scope of the report. However, the report does not recommend the building of a new Lyon - St Jean de Maurienne LGV that would account for much of halving the Lyon - Turin journey time. This could be problematic as Italy agreed to bear a greater share of the cost of the tunnel on the basis that France had to also meet the cost of the new LGV.

Four electrification schemes that are not supported are Paris - Troyes (beyond Nogent sur Seine), Laroche-Migennes - Auxerre, Angouleme - Saintes - Royan, and Amiens - Rang de Fliers. The Conseil takes the view that new bi-mode units provide a seamless change of power between un-electrified and electrified sections and the traffic levels on these routes do not justify the investment. Nevertheless they wish to eliminate reliance on diesel power, and the development of hydrogen powered rolling stock is reaching maturity and trials in the Burgundy Region are supported.

The government's response is awaited later this month. The full 220 page report is available via this link.

On a dull and wet 18th February in the Haute Garonne Regiolis B 83581/2 was  operating local TER service 872880 from Muret to Toulouse Matabiau. An urban service of only 20 minutes, it is one of the services that both Duron and Spinetta seek to promote. This gleaming new Regiolis unit had only entered service on February 1st, the last of 18 short (4 car) units ordered by Midi-Pyrénées* out of a class ( B 83500) of 42 bimode/high density train sets. The other 24 sets were delivered to Alsace. 83581 had not yet received its regional vinyls. Photo and information by Georges Turpin

* now part of Occitanie Region. 
The Spinetta Review
Likely to be more controversial is the Spinetta Report delivered on the 15th February. Jean-Cyril Spinetta was commissioned in October 2017 to produce a strategy for France’s railways opening them up to competition while retaining the elements of a public service; producing proposals  to deal with the massive debt within the SNCF group including future SNCF Reseau access charges; and a requirement to restore economic viability across the sector without recourse to further state funds. This included looking at performance and productivity issues including comparisons with other operators (see November News

 The first section of the report  details how France and it’s transport patterns have changed. In the first part of the 19th century when France’s rail network was developing only 10% of the population lived in an urban environment, today the figure has increased to 85%. At the beginning of the 20th century 90% of all passenger journeys (all forms of transport) were by rail. By 1950 this had fallen to 60%, and to 9.2% by 2016 due to the rise of other forms of transport, principally private cars. Despite the dramatic fall between 1950 and 2016 rail passenger volume (measured by passenger/km) has increased threefold, mainly as a result of the high-speed network. However, the bulk of the high-speed traffic is on the north-south axis created by the LGV Nord/LGV South East, and the LGV Est, with traffic relatively light on the other high speed routes. 

The total subsidy for the rail network is now over €10 billion a year taking account of both state and regional support. Of this, €1.7 billion is spent on providing the services on over 10,000km of lightly used lines that carry only 2% of passenger traffic. Each passenger journey requires  a euro per kilometre in subsidy. 

Despite renewing the locomotive fleet, and shedding two thirds of its staff and rolling stock SNCF Fret continues to make a loss, with 40% of traffic now handled by private operators. However, the review recognises the environmental benefits of rail freight and the need to reduce emissions and move to sustainable forms of energy. It also notes that the proposed 'ecotax' on road freight has yet to be introduced.
The report contains over 40 recommendations with the view that the national railway must refocus on ‘the areas where it has greatest relevance’; transporting large numbers of passengers within urban areas, and providing high speed connectivity between France’s principal cities. The report recommends that each of the lightly used lines is assessed in terms of operating costs, future investment required and the socio-economic benefits, with a view to re-directing investment and support towards improving the major rail hubs where it will have greatest benefit. SNCF Reseau should design a model for this purpose.

Spinetta does not believe that SNCF’s current structure is compatible with EU legislation or enables it to effectively manage it’s debt and proposes that it be re-strucutred into two seperate companies. SNCF Fret would become a subsidiary.

 Spinetta’s most radical recommendations relate to the status of SNCF staff who he believes need to come in line with those working in other utilities. Despite the difficult industrial relations position he believes that the special legal status of cheminots cannot be maintained. For existing staff this is a protected 'reserved right'  and provision should be made for large scale voluntary redundancies. Staff will need to adjust to working in a competitive market and new entrants to the industry should be offered a new social contract that puts their skills and knowledge at the heart of a competitive business. He feels that the imputus for change must come from the staff, based on co-operation rather than the  conflict that has blighted recent years. A full copy of the report is available via this link.

Readers will recall the comparitively modest changes introduced by the Hollande administration that resulted in a long series of strikes during the summer of 2016. Even after the government, SNCF and the unions had settled the dispute, individual branches continued to take industrial action. 

Commentators note that the report has been prepared without consultation with the Regions. Issues such as the chronic shortage of drivers (currently 600 short) are not dealt with. The future of rural lines appeared to be being taken away from democratically elected representatives who provide the funding, and decided using a model operated by SNCF. 
A Response to the Spinetta Review from the French Government.
  On February 26th, the Prime Minister responded to the Spinetta report with an announcement of the first decisions by the government. He stated that it was necessary to reform SNCF which had old infrastructure, late trains and a huge debt. Although there were 40 recommendations in the report only five subjects were addressed during this presentation. 

 - it had been decided not to start a programme of systematic closures of unprofitable rural lines, leaving the Regions with their current responsibilities to decide how to deal with these matters. 

 - there would no privatisation and SNCF would remain in public ownership 

 - the special employment status * of cheminots would no longer be applied to new employees from a date to be determined. Existing cheminots would continue to benefit from their special employment conditions without modification. 
 * Cheminots benefit from guaranteed employment and early retirement between 50 and 55 years. 

 - SNCF would be required to develop a plan to improve productivity considering that their costs to operate trains were 30% higher than those elsewhere in Europe. If improvements became evident, then the government would undertake to deal with the debt. 

 - in order to implement change rapidly ( considering the imminent opening to competition starting in 2019 ) the government announced that it would use directives (ordanances) to create laws thus avoiding time consuming (but democratic) debates in the Assemblée Nationale. 

 - the calendar of consultations would start in March with the subject of competition, followed by consideration of the future organisation of SNCF from mid-March and the future status of cheminots from the beginning of April. The government hopes to have completed the structure of the reform before August. The planned method of passing laws by directives is the most controversial decision. It deliberately crosses one of the "red lines" of the unions who may well declare a strike before even beginning to discuss substance. 

 The matter of the huge debt is left very vague.
During early February snow and freezing conditions covered much of Northern and Central France causing widespread problems on the roads. To help keep roads clear the Government stopped vehicles over 7.5 tons for three days in Ile de France, causing food supplies to run short. On the 7th February  BB 27346 does not appear to be adversely affected by the weather as it passes Meulan-Hardricourt with a Mantes - St Lazare service. Photo D Michel Costes
No Montlucon Festirail.
AAATV at Montlucon have decided not to hold the annual Festirail this year, instead an open day will be held on the Sunday. The decision is due, in part, to the unlikey availability of 141 R 420 and 141 R 840, the two star exhibits in recent years.

141 R 840 
In previous editions we have reported on the return to service of Les Aubrais based 141 R 840. However, it has now been reported that the overhaul did not include renewal of the boiler certificate that has now expired. Work is currently underway to renew the certificate. AAATV will announce their tour programme once the extent of work required is known. 

Ground Control
This year's 'Ground Control' event previously, held at the former La Chapelle Depot, opened on February 9th and is being held in the former Charolais postal sorting hall accessible from Gare de Lyon (Hall 2)
Future of Mohon Depot assured
The former locomotive depot at Mohon has been saved following agreement by SNCF to spend €150,000 on urgent repairs. Used to store surplus locomotives from Cité de Train at Mulhouse, the condition of the roundhouse has deteriorated in recent years, to the extent that SNCF has banned volunteers from working on the locomotives.

After pressure from the Minister of Culture and local politicians, SNCF has agreed to undertake reconstruction with the likelihood that the depot will be listed and converted into a heritage centre.

End for Brittany Class BB 25500 
 At the beginning of February the last BB 25500 in Brittany finished operating. The only remaining members of the class are the batch based in Strasbourg on local TER services. These are expected to be replaced by push-pull fitted BB 22200

On February 22, Z 5339 arrives at Fontaine-le-Port with the 12.48 from Melun to Montereau. The train is 50 years old (entered service 29th September 1967). Two months after presentation of the new Bombardier Régio 2N IDF double deck train sets that were to replace the Z 5300 units, passengers are still waiting for deployment of the new stock. Although six Régio 2N units have been delivered they are only operated at the weekend on a few services. SNCF reports that deployment will be "progressive" until May 2018. Meanwhile the inox trains continue to shuttle back and forth.

Historic diesel railcars return to service in 2018

Two well known autorails are scheduled to return to service on the main lines in 2018.

X 4039 "Picasso" (1960) 
This autorail received heavy maintenance in 2017 after an audit by SNCF. As we reported last December, Autorails Bourgogne Franche-Comté (ABFC) experienced difficulties to organise the transfer from Dijon to Mézy-Moulins in the Marne for verification of the bogies. On Feb 11th, ABFC issued a detailed communiqué which describes the status of the autorail and the 2018 programme of special trains. 

 It is confirmed that 4039 will travel on March 17th to a workshop in Mézy for checking of the bogies and also re-painting. The return journey is reserved for April 14th. SNCF has signed a new authorisation for the Picasso to operate on the main line (subject to the work on the bogies). The document is new; Contrat Uniforme d'Utilisation du Matériel Roulant Ferroviaire Préservé (CUU-MRFP). ABFC believe they are the first to sign a "CUU-MRFP", now compulsory for all operators of historical rolling stock on the Réseau Ferré National (RFN). The new contract changes the conditions of approval to operate on the RFN. The CUU defines the maintenance procedures appropriate for the subject rolling stock. As long as the association can report conformity to the designated maintenance procedures, approval to operate is automatic and indefinite. It is no longer necessary for an SNCF manager to travel to make a visual inspection of the locomotive or railcar before each special train. The pre-journey checks are defined in the CUU and carried out by the operator.

ABFC has announced its programme of special trains for 2018. These are included on the Railtours Page

Although ABFC has members qualified to drive the Picasso, all special trains have to be accompanied by an SNCF CTT with route knowledge. During the 12 months from November 2016, ABFC was obliged to cancel 7 scheduled special trains (and the 3 transfers to Mézy) all due to the absence of a Cadre Traction (CTT) to accompany the Picasso. This situation provoked a significant financial loss for ABFC. It is reported that UNECTO has been negotiating with SNCF to substitute qualified drivers to pilot the special trains instead of CTT supervisors. 


This autorail has been out of service since 2015 for a general overhaul. 2403 is the oldest diesel railcar to run on the RFN. It is operated by Association des Chemins de fer de la Haute Auvergne (Gentiane Express). The railcar is currently at Clermont-Ferrand where it is receiving attention to the bogies and 8 new wheels have been ordered. it was reported in February that the new wheels were expected to be fitted in the spring and this would complete the maintenance work. The first special trains to be operated by X 2403 in 2018 will be at the Lioran 150 years festivities (July 28th/29th) - see separate article. Facebook link: 

Winter in Picardie - Two narrow gauge lines rebuild for the future

Two well known narrow gauge railways are located in Picardie; CFBS at St Valery-en-Somme and MTVS at Crèvecoeur-le-Grand near Beauvais in the OIse. In the winter of 2017/2018, both associations have been engaged in track work to renew or rebuild. In the Baie de Somme, the branch from Noyelles to Le Crotoy is being entirely renewed. MTVS has started the extension to their new line by clearing and relaying an additional 1.3 km of track to the village of Rotangy.


The €1.3 million project to renew the track between Le Crotoy and Noyelles has been funded by the Somme Department, who still own the trackbed. The work has been carried out jointly by Colas and the CFBS track team. Colas have been responsible for removal of the old track and laying the new track using a mix of wooden and concrete sleepers. CFBS have then taken over,  laying the ballast and bringing the track up to operational condition.

Some of the recovered ballast will be re-used at St Valery to raise the track level in the storage sheds where ground water is a problem.  

At Morlay the former refuge siding has been removed and the platform area narrowed, allowing the through line to be straightened (see photo left). A small margin of agricultural land has been acquired and a passing loop is being installed. This will increase operational flexibility, particularly with charter or additional services.

MTVS (Train Vapeur du Beauvaisis)

After a compulsory nature study during the summer of 2017 which did not find any endangered species, MTVS was given the "green flag" to proceed with further development of the line from Crèvecoeur towards St Omer-en-Chaussée. The objective for 2018 is to clear the track-bed from the level-crossing at the D 149 to the former station at Rotangy, a distance of 1.3 km. .

The rails will be re-used and the track relaid to metre gauge with new sleepers and ballast. After 5 days of strenuous work during January, a group of about 12 members completed a first "cut" of the abundant vegetation along the line. In February, a second "pass" was completed by the group to eradicate the most stubborn roots. 

Above, Rotangy station in August 2017 and after clearance this January exposing the former standard gauge track still in position.
 Just over 2,100 new sleepers (4 lorry loads) are needed to meet the target of relaying the line to Rotangy, including a loop beyond that station, by the autumn. Half the sleepers have been ordered, but further donations (23,600 euros) are needed to fund the remainder. Each sleeper costs 20 euros. Readers who would like to support this project by donations ("dons") should consult the MTVS web site. French tax payers can deduct 66% of any donation from their income tax. (see MTVS website) Once the new section of the line is ready, application will be made to the authorities for the certificate to operate tourist trains along the new extension (5 months to process). If all goes to plan, the 2019 season should see MTVS steam trains operating from Crévecoeur to Rotangy (3 km). 

Since the arrival of MTVS at Crèvecoeur in January 2014, all the track work has been carried out by the volunteer members of the association. The section of the line between Rotangy and St-Omer-en-Chaussée (9 km) is owned by the Communauté des Communes de Picardie Verte (CCPV). A study as been commissioned by CCPV to define the conversion of the "Coulée Verte" into the tourist railway(*) The objective is to calculate the budget for this project planned for 2019. The former station building at Oudeuil will be renovated by CCPV, and the site will be modified with a run-around loop and turntable. 

 "The pieces of the puzzle are fitting together" declares Olivier Janneau, President of MTVS who has kindly provided the photos of the clearances and assisted with this  article. 

 * The original intention of the local council (CCPV) was to create a "voie verte" in the place of the former railway. But no work has actually been done yet, the original track still exists, and the track-bed is designated "Coulée Verte". The overall plan is to restore and enhance the original rural habitat in the valley. The future tourist railway operated by MTVS will be part of that plan.
The CFBS started their 2018 season on the 18th February with afternoon services between St Valery and Noyelles. On the 25th February, a day of bright sunshine but bitterly cold, ex Morbihan Pinguely 0-6-0T No. 101 heads away from Noyelles with the first service of the afternoon to St Valery.


We detail what we know about the special trains being planned for the festival of 150 years of the railway over the Lioran pass in the Cantal, Auvergne, July 28th/29th. (

 1. Autorail - Limousin ( ). Two diesel railcars ( X 2844 and X 2907 ). A 3 day circuit with two nights in hotels. July 27th Limoges - Montluçon - Clermont-Ferrand. July 28th Brioude - Langogne - Mende - Saint-Flour. July 29th Le Lioran - Aurillac - Brive - Limoges. The association wants to fill the two railcars by March 15th. Reservation on the web site. 

 2. AP 2800 ( ). This association operates preserved diesel railcars X 2819, X 2914 and a trailer. They have announced a two day circuit with one night in hotel at Aurillac. Departure will be on July 28th from Nîmes via Avignon, Valence, Lyon-Perrache, St Etienne, Le Puy-en-Velay, Arvant, Neussargues, Le Lioran, Aurillac. Return the following day July 29th (4 hours at Le Lioran) Reservations not opened at end February but the special trip is previewed on the web site.  

3. Chemins de fer de Haute Auvergne - CFHA ( ) The preserved diesel railcar X 2403 ( see elsewhere on this News page) will participate at the special event. It is planned that 2403 will operate two return trips between Aurillac and Saint-Flour on the Saturday and the Sunday. The shuttles will stop at all the stations between the two towns. There are discussions with ABFC Dijon to operate the X 2403 shuttles together with the Picasso railcar X 4039 which will also visit the special event. 

 4. Le Train Historique de Toulouse ( ). The association has announced a special train on Saturday July 28th from Toulouse to Le Lioran and return via St Sulpice, Villefranche, Capdenac, Figeac and Maurs. At end of February, reservations had not been opened and there is no confirmation about the motive power, steam (141 R 1126) or diesel. 

5. Train à Vapeur d'Auvergne ( ) The organisers of the rail event at the Lioran (whoever they are) have announced a special train from Clermont-Ferrand to Le Lioran on the Saturday July 28th. This has not been confirmed on the web site of 141 R 420. In fact, there is no news about the repairs to the steam engine since the summer of 2017. We will update readers when more information becomes available. 

 6. AAATV Montluçon is listed as a participant with a special railcar train but this is not currently confirmed by the association.

CONCLUSION: There are two events at the summit of the pass: the annual country fair (Fête de Montagne) and the programme of special trains visiting in the 150th year of the railway over the col du Lioran. There will be a small exhibition at Le Lioran station. We will update information in JUNE NEWS. 

 To illustrate this subject, a photo of the Brive - Le Lioran ski train in February 2006 passing through Murat on its way to Neussargues to park during the day before the return

Turning back the clock

A reminder of how long the  VB2N stock has been in use (introduced 1975). Forty years ago in the winter of 1978 BB 17057 departs from St Lazare with an outer suburban service. One of the many photographs available in the recently introduced photo archive accessable via the Members Area.

Grand Paris Express - A giant project under scrutiny

Grand Paris Express ("GPE") is a vast public works project to create a rapid transit rail network that will encercle central Paris around the inner suburbs. It will total 200 km of new lines of which 90% will be underground. There will be 68 new underground stations. The majority of these GPE stations will provide opportunities for passengers to change to existing overground lines (RER, Transilien, metro, trams, buses). The new underground trains will operate automatically, monitored by the control centre. RATP will operate the new GPE underground railway network. 

 This project was started by the Sarkozy government in 2007. It was confirmed by the Hollande government in 2013 and, after the planning, work began at many different sites simultaneously in 2015. The first tunnelling machine was commissioned and started excavating during February 2018. The plan is for 20 tunnelling machines to be in operation by 2020. 

 This is currently the largest civil engineering project in Europe. It is therefore not surprising that some problems are arising. These concern, mainly, finance, project control and completion dates. The original estimate of 19 billion euros in 2007 has escalated to 37 billion euros, ten years later. The Macron government has confirmed in January 2018 that the original network plan will not be changed, but a new phasing of the project will be necessary. The National Audit Office believes the project is out of control and will require the injection of more capital by the State, more qualified staff to be hired to oversee the work and more realistic planning. They are doubtful that all the lines are justified as underground railways (particularly lines 17, 18).


 The GPE network will be situated, mostly, under the inner suburbs of Paris. The original plan colour-coded the different lines, but in 2013 this system was replaced with numbers in the sequence of the Paris metro. Bear in mind that none of these lines is built yet (with the exception of the central portion of line 14 ). A diagram of all the future lines can be consulted on the following link: The diagram has been updated with the latest estimated dates of opening announced by the government on February 22nd. Click on 2024, 2027 or 2030 to see the future state of the network. The first lines to open will be Line 14 (extension north to Saint-Denis Pleyel and south to Orly airport) and Line 15 sud. These two lines are featured below. Priority is given also to part of Line 16. Other sections of the network will be delivered up to 5 years later than expected for technical reasons.

There are five lines numbered 14 - 18. Line 15 is divided into 3 sections. Line 17 has 2 sections. We only briefly describe below the two lines that clearly have priority. The other lines may not be completed for at least 10 years.

Line 14 
 An automatic RATP metro line operates from Olympiades to Saint-Lazare. It is being extended by 5.8 km from Saint-Lazare to Mairie de Saint Ouen(4 stops). This extension will open in 2020. Under the GPE project, a further short extension northwards from Saint-Ouen will bring the line to its terminus at Saint-Denis Pleyel ( a major new interchange station ). Line 14 will be extended southwards (for GPE) from Olympiades to Orly airport to open in 2024.

Line 15 
This line will be entirely new and it will run underground from Pont de Sèvres in the western suburbs to Noisy-Champs in the east, via Villejuif, Champigny. The line will be 33 km long with 16 stations and 2 overground depots for maintenance and stabling. The journey time will be 37 minutes and it is expected that 300,000 passengers a day will travel on this line. Opening is now expected in 2024. 

 The tunnels for GPE (Lines 15-17) will be 10m in diameter and will be excavated between 15 and 55 mètres below ground. They will be equipped with standard gauge tracks, electrified at 1500v with overhead current collection. The underground extensions of metro line 14 will be compatible with the existing standards (width of rolling stock 2.45m, track for rubber tyred trains, 750v third rail electrification). Line 18 will be built to standards similar to the Paris metro with current collection by a third rail. Half the route of Line 18 will be overground, partly on a viaduct. 

 By 2020, it is expected that 20 tunnelling machines will be working on the different lines. Disposal of the material excavated is a major challenge. The waste material will first be transported by rail to the surface and then removed by road or canal. Many of the 68 underground stations will be huge edifices and these have provoked criticism for contributing to the cost overruns. Platforms of the deepest stations will be 50m (160 ft) below ground. Seven maintenance depots with stabling will be constructed above ground


 Among the numerous documents that relate the GPE project, few provide much information about the future trains and how the lines will be operated. This is what we know.

 Line 14 will be the only rubber-tyred system in the GPE network. The existing fleet of 6 carriage BOA trains will be replaced by a fleet of 35 new generation train sets of 8 carriages (120m x 2.40m) designated MP14. The new design has been presented by Alstom and features dedicated space for wheelchairs and seats reserved for mobility impaired passengers. Improvements to lighting, air conditioning and more efficient motors can be cited. (The existing Line 14 trains will be transferred to Metro Line 4).

 Line 15 Sud is expected to be the busiest section and will have "RER" type train sets (108m x 2.80m, steel wheels on rails) in a single level BOA configuration with 6 segments. Top speed will be 120 kph. Trains will be operated automatically. At peak periods trains will operate at 2 minute intervals.

 Lines 15 Ouest, 15 Est, Lines 16, 17 will have the same type of BOA train sets as Line 15 Sud but the sets will only be half the length (54m) of those on Line 15 Sud. This immediately raises questions regarding the expected future traffic on these lines, apparently only half that of Line 15 Sud but for the same cost per km to build. Line 18 will receive short Metro type trains. 
Amidst these reports on the future developments for Paris' urban and suburban networks we look back to the winter of 1978 when some of the remaining Sprague Thomson units were still running and approaching 70 years of service. Here a set is approaching Quai de la Rapée after crossing the Seine from Austerlitz. The last examples soldiered on for another five years. Photo FRS Archive.

Light rail projects in Ile de France (continued)

Tram 12 Express (Phase 1) (Massy-Palaiseau - Evry-Courcouronnes) 

The concept of this new tram-train line in the outer suburbs, south-east of Paris, was presented in 2008/2009. The current project is for a new light rail route of 20 km from Massy-Palaiseau to Evry-Coucouronnes. The first section of 10 km will use the "Grande Ceinture" SNCF line from Massy to Epinay-sur-Orge. The tram-train will be in train mode and will replace an existing RER C service. At Petit-Vaux, the tram-train will change to tram mode and a new infrastructure will be created for the second section of the line (10km) from Epinay-sur-Orge to Evry-Courcouronnes. This project was officially approved in 2014 after a Public Enquiry which also recommended extending the tram-train route from Massy-Palaiseau to Versailles. This modification to the original idea is now planned as a Phase 2 and it is expected to be approved in 2019. Further details are provided at the end of this report.

The new tram-train is now called Tram 12 Express. This link shows a video illustrating the route of Phase 1 through the south-east suburbs.

Route description 
 As illustrated on the video, from Massy-Palaiseau, the Tram 12 will use the existing SNCF line towards Savigny-sur-Orge as far as Petit Vaux. A junction will be created after that station for the new tramway which will cross under the Paris - Orléans line just north of the SNCF station at Epinay-sur-Orge. The new double track tramway will then be constructed close to the A6 motorway which it will cross three times before reaching the terminus in front of Evry-Courcouronnes RER D station. The tramway will be electrified at 750v collected from overhead wires. There will be 13 stops between Epinay-sur-Orge and Evry-Coucouronnes.  

Operating data 
35 Alstom Dualis bi-voltage (1500 v / 750 v) tram-train units will be needed altogether. Services will usually be operated in pairs of units providing a total capacity for 500 passengers. A maintenance depot is to be constructed near Massy. Forecast traffic amounts to 71,000 passengers a day (40,000 between Evry and Massy, 31,000 between Massy and Versailles). Massy to Evry will take 38 minutes with 17 stops. However, SNCF Réseau has advised recently that, due to difficulties with the financing and a shortage of qualified staff, the target date for completion of Phase 1 in 2020 will not be met. It is thought 2022 is more realistic, but local politicians are upset about this delay

Tram 12 Express (Phase 2) (Massy-Palaiseau - Versailles-Chantier)

Phase 2 is expected to be approved in 2019. 

 From Massy-Palaiseau, the Tram 12 Express (Phase 2) will use the SNCF line through the valley of Bièvres to Versailles-Chantiers. The 7 existing stations along this section (15 km) will be modified for the tram-train. Platforms will be lowered and shelters created. The RER C trains currently operating along this section will be replaced by the tram-train. Freight trains will continue to operate in between the Dualis units, as will the occasional cross-country TGV, a "first" for the tram-train in France.

 When the Tram 12 Express opens completely, the tram-train will provide a seamless journey in 56 minutes over 35 km from Versailles-Chantiers to Evry-Coucouronnes with 22 stops. At present, there is no date when the whole route will open.
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2018. Thanks to Georges Turpin, D Michel Costes, Jean-Louis Poggi and Olivier Janneau . Photos by authors unless credited.
© The French Railways Society 2018, - 2019 All Rights Reserved
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